Classical review: London Symphony Orchestra 3, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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IN the third of the LSO’s concerts at the Usher Hall, pairing up Brahms with Szymanowski, it would be a fairly safe bet that the latter’s Song of the Night was new to most of the audience on Saturday evening.

London Symphony Orchestra 3

Usher Hall

Star rating: * * * * *

His third symphony, it calls for colossal forces. Scored for full orchestra, an augmented LSO filling the stage more or less to capacity, plus choir and tenor soloist, it was a ravishing, richly sensual tapestry of sounds evoking the beauty of a Persian night and the mystery of the heavens as described by 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi.

Expansive and highly dramatic under Valery Gergiev’s baton, the shimmering orchestral colouring was matched by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, getting under the skin of the piece with an impressive command of Polish and spot-on intonation as wordless phrasing glided easily up to the stars. As tenor soloist, Steve Davislim was convincing, if a little lightweight for the full-on sound behind him.

Surprisingly complementary to Song of the Night, the first half of Brahms had its fair share of mystery too in Gergiev’s profoundly philosophical interpretation of his Symphony No 3.

In the extraordinary partnership between conductor and orchestra, the range of expression was of subtle beauty, yet so telling, especially the second movement’s shifts of tone and dynamic. Strong and precise, nothing was overblown, as in the same composer’s lightly dancing Variations on 
a theme by Haydn.